Linda Holmes, over at NPR, has an interesting reaction to yesterday’s “Balloon Boy” story (which I too followed, on the TV screen of the local cafe where I was grading papers). She writes:
Like a whole lot of other people, I watched for a while yesterday as the helium balloon in which a 6-year-old was supposedly flying made its way through the sky, landed softly on the ground, and turned out to have nobody in it. And, like a whole lot of other people, I was relieved when it turned out that he was in the attic of his own house the entire time.
(My favorite part of the news coverage: a CNN commentator using a fancy touch-screen gizmo to zero in on a satellite photo of THE KID’S HOUSE in order to dramatically demonstrate the outcome.)
And finally, like a whole lot of other people, I hoped that perhaps something might be learned from the entire sequence, and that it might be remembered for … I don’t know, perhaps a few hours. The point being: If you don’t know what’s going on, don’t say you know what’s going on. Yes, this was fed by 24-hour news channels, and it was fed by Twitter (which, at least for me, performed with a certain uneven twitchiness the entire time this was unfolding).
But it was also fed by the fact that we who live with so much information are no longer used to admitting that we don’t really know what’s going on. Surely someone knows what’s going on; how can it be otherwise? I don’t have to be driven crazy anymore about song lyrics, or who played the best friend in a movie from 15 years ago, or what my old neighborhood looks like these days. Thanks, Internet!
there’s something more to be said about this via the anthropology of knowledge, but i think the image of millions of people watching an empty balloon, and the engines of information that circulated around it, is a good starting point… I’ll have more thoughts later